Love and Lakes


The days in Camelot could not pass by more quickly: Arthur and Gwen were happy together, but they had not yet produced an heir, and had any stranger walked into the castle they could almost feel the tensions. Merlin was very tempted to help, but Arthur and Gwen still knew nothing of Merlin’s magic and to try anything would cause another Great Purge. And he could not do that; it would mean his destiny would fail, everything he had ever worked for, and it would put Freya in danger, which was simply not going to happen. And though it broke Merlin to see the King and Queen distressed so, he could not do what he knew he had the potential to do.

These thoughts plagued him, as he stood idly in the throne room during a meeting or ceremony of some sort - he hadn’t been paying much attention. Whatever this was, he was bored beyond comprehension, although seeing Freya standing in the corner of the room was a small comfort. He turned his head the slightest degree to look at her, and she met his eye before he winked at her and smiled. She returned the gesture and then they both looked back straight ahead. A couple feet to Merlin’s right, Arthur finished what sort of thing he was saying as a squire whispered a message in his ear. Then, a beat later, added: “Here he is now, actually.”

Merlin frowned, now wishing he had listened to whatever thing Arthur had said before, when suddenly the doors burst open and a dirty, slimy looking kind of guy strut through. Merlin had to repress a groan - he already had more than his fair share of dirty, slimy looking guys messing around with his life. He did not need another.

Arthur did not look pleased to have this man here either, but he still greeted him politely. “Welcome to Camelot, Noldan. I thank you for your services.” At this, the man assumed a smug expression.

“Well, catching those dirty magic wretches is what I do. It is my pleasure to cleanse your kingdom of the filth.” Noldan drawled, quite arrogantly. And as an afterthought, he added: “Your Highness.” Merlin flinched a bit, but it was nothing compared to Freya’s reaction. He glanced in her direction, and was surprised to see that the color had leaked out of her skin, and her eyes were widened and filled with fear. She was shaking her head and mouthing ‘No,’ in what looked like denial while slowly backing away. She got close enough to the door to dash out before anyone noticed what she was doing, which was good, but Merlin itched to follow her. But he stayed in the room while this Noldan continued with his increasingly repulsive talk with Arthur.

It looked as if Noldan was a bounty hunter that Arthur had hired to chase after that night thief that had recently been wreaking havoc in the streets of Camelot. Arthur was convinced that the thief was magical and needed somebody more trained to apprehend him, but Merlin had already investigated and the troublesome burglar was long gone. But this victory wouldn’t fair well for Merlin now; the bounty hunter would end up staying for an extended period of time searching for a thief that would never turn up, and while he was there, Merlin and Freya would not be safe.

Merlin stood, discontentedly mulling over this, while Noldan launched into a gruesome monologue that, by the end, had Gwen looking slightly green and Arthur obviously putting a mask over the disgust he felt for this man. As soon as Noldan ended his speech, Arthur dismissed everyone. Before Arthur could even give an obnoxious shout of “Merlin!” the man in question was already long gone.

He was off to chase his mysteriously invisible girlfriend.

Merlin felt a bit guilty that both Gwen and Arthur were now suddenly servant-less, but they’d have to deal with it. Freya was who mattered right now. The only thing that mattered right now, so if she felt that she was in danger, Merlin would do everything in his rather extensive power to stop that feeling.

It took him the better part of an hour to find her, and he almost missed her when he did. The only way he did actually find her was when she accidentally let out a small whimper from the corner she was hiding in. The corner was small and dark, behind a pillar in the wall in one of the tallest, most deserted towers of the castle. Merlin took a small step closer to investigate, and saw two watery brown eyes gazing tearfully back at him.

The eyes realized what they were seeing, and then relaxed as Merlin approached her cautiously. “Freya?” He murmured gently. “Are you alright?” He sat down slowly next to her. She shook her head as Merlin took her trembling hands in his.

“I - I know that man. He and Halig were the ones who c-captured me. He-he’s going to g-get me again and I’m going to be taken away from Camelot and Gwen and you and I’m not going back there, I can’t, Merlin, I ca-” Merlin shushed her and took his hands out of hers so he could wrap an arm around her shoulders and let her lean into him.

He began to whisper to her. “Don’t worry Freya, I won’t let anything happen to you. I will protect you - you know that, right? We’re just going to have to keep you hidden. I won’t risk any harm coming to you. Maybe we’ll just go back down to the tunnels, we know it’s a pretty safe place. It’ll be okay, Freya - we just have to wait for this to blow over. It’ll all be fine.” In the middle of his monologue, he started to stroke her hair. Eventually, Freya’s breathing slowed and she rested her head on his shoulder, finally calm. Merlin quickly kissed her forehead, and then slowly stood up and pulled her to her feet.

“Come on, now. Let’s get some food, water, and blankets. I want you to be as comfortable as possible.” They set off down the corridor together, holding hands. The air around them was a mix of bittersweet acceptance, full of hope and sadness. Maybe it would be alright if they wished hard enough.

An hour or so later, Freya was quickly walking through the market with Merlin at her side. They pasted smiles on their faces, just so nobody got suspicious, but then they dropped it as soon as they reached the entrance to the catacombs. Freya gave a bittersweet smile as she reached her old spot, and dropped her blankets and arranged the food and candles in an organized manner before sitting back down in her corner.

Merlin joined her, putting an arm around her shoulder again and whispering, “I’ll be here as soon as possible, but I do have a prat to answer to. I’ll try to get a day or two off for us - I’ll say that you’re sick and I have to take care of you. At least Gwen will understand. I promise I’ll be back right after though, I swear.” She looked up at him and smile, and he quickly kissed her and then got up to leave. As he turned the corner, she smiled softly again and turned her head to the wall to sleep.

Meanwhile, a fairly pissed-off Arthur was waiting in his chambers, tapping his foot. He had a council meeting in less than an hour and was still waiting for his incompetent excuse for a manservant to show up for his job. He was just about ready to go to Merlin’s chambers where the idiot was probably slacking off and drag the boy by the ear to the stocks when said boy burst through door, chest heaving from what seemed like running for a long distance and a guilty look in his eyes. Merlin turned to Arthur and began to speak frantically. “Look, I’m -” but Arthur cut him off.

“And what poor excuse do you have for being missing for more than two hours?”

Merlin’s eyes flashed with the smallest hint of hurt before frowning slightly. He murmured defensively, “Freya’s sick, I was just taking care of her.”

Arthur dropped the obnoxious act for a bit and looked down at his shoes. “Well,” he replied softly. “I hope she gets better soon. I’ll give you the rest of the day off, then.” Merlin smiled and sighed.

“Thanks, I just wanted to let you know. Also could you tell Gwen too? Thanks again.” And with that, he ran out the door and Arthur once more found himself without a servant.

Within minutes, Merlin was back down in the catacombs and holding hands with a tired Freya. She leaned her head on his shoulders and he stroked her hair sadly, humming a soft tune. She sighed quietly, and in response Merlin kissed her lips chastely before pulling away and putting his head on top of hers.

They sat like that for hours, just holding hands and sitting entwined together in a perfect tangle of arms and legs and kissing lips, of young love and ancient sadness. Eventually they laid down together, sleeping side by side for the first time. It was perfect for a short moment, with matching slow breaths and quiet love. But that short moment was suddenly over, and one set of breaths became quick, ragged, and panicked, and what was quiet was soon filled with screams.

Merlin scrambled to his feet, holding up his hands to try and calm and subdue her, but to no avail. In between shouts, she yelled shrilly, “I c-can’t g-go back in-into a c-cage!” But before anything else could be said, a Bastet started to form where Freya had been, a panicked look in her eyes. The Bastet saw Merlin, but didn’t see him: she would not be calmed tonight. With a fleeting glance, she turned and ran out of the catacombs and into the city.

Merlin stood, shocked for a moment, and then ran after her. He ran out of the catacombs and through the streets, searching for Freya, before suddenly a piercing scream echoed through the night. Merlin rounded the corner, dreading and hoping but knowing what he would see, before the dead body of an old man came into view and the running figure of a black cat somewhere in the night.
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